A lot of people wish they were someone else. And some of us would like
to exchange parts with other people, keeping what we already like and
jettisoning the things we can't stand. Some people would like to try to change places, just for a day, with maybe someone they admired or even envied, to see what it would be like, to see if it would be what they'd always heard it would be. There are those too, that are quite satisfied with themselves and never think
about such things as another person's blessings, and it seemed appropriate to
someone like him, that these satisfied ones were the ones that he most wanted
to be like and exchange with and try to take the place of.
He could never imagine what it must be like to spend an entire day
without ever having to avoid a mirror. And where he lived, he made sure, never had a reflection, and any surface that did so, got dulled or rubbed out, and any
surface that became stubborn and kept its polish, got thrown in a bucket.
When he went out, to the outside, he would make sure to take care of all
of what was him, and be aware to resist and turn away from even a frame of
glass, something as common as a darkened window. Uninhibited unconsciousness was something uninheritable, like a nameless form of new life, something not learned, a kind of anomalous gracenote.
This type of character or "component", (as he came to call it) was one of
his wishes, a surprise he had asked for on every one of his thirty-three
birthdays, and though the chances of receiving this prize was next to under the well,
it became a habit, an attitude, a toll to be paid, like sure, make the bet,
why not, wishful thinking cost about as much as the chances of getting it anyway.
His physical demands and his inability to come to terms with their order,
wasn't, as one would assume, eccentric, or even dangerously whimsical. He
had justifiable reasons, and asking for deliverance, however unanswered, was, he felt, strict and necessary clockwork.
Mostly he wasn't sure, (a question of sorts) of how long he could
continue to walk around with the feeling of blood on his hands.
He used to live in the West Village in New York on eleventh street near
the southwest corner of Hudson Ave. And even in a part of the city where a lot
of men were incredibly handsome, he was more. His look had the call, they
exploded the bill for what was generally considered classical or God-like, and
what was usually said about them was something like, "how can that be".
He had heard this many times and as many times as he had, he still took
it badly, sort of seeing his luck as a curse, something thought up on purpose, a
bone pointed at him by an unknown tribe for reasons he felt unfair. He was
being punished for existing as he was, and what was left of his life came to be
lived as a version of one, like a shadow, (a life as subtle as a detail)
always making sure never to be tagged or named, good guy or bad guy.
The self-casting or this is assumed state of invisibility, was the ready
way he figured to avoid embarassment and showdown. Being what many people imagined as the most handsome man in the world was not at all the adventure it was rumored to be. Privacy in public, at least in the city, was something negotiated. The constant fingering and targeting was never as harmless as gossip or whisper, and what most people tolerated as "dirty laundry", he rightly feared as a possible, (at any time) lynch mob free-for-all.
He had spent most of his adult life in an urban surrounding, where
pedestrian relationships had come to be seen as modern dance. He would say he was a solo performer, an independent, someone who ramrodded more than walked, and if his move wasn't exactly in a straight line, he'd come about as if in a sail-race and return from where he began, usually his home, go inside, stay, and not come out for a week.
He wasn't a martyr. He wasn't someone who felt sorry for himself and
walked around with his head down willingly. Eye contact was supposed to be
natural and welcomed, and having to wear dark glasses, as one would wear a pair of shoes, wasn't for him, jazzy or cool or soulful.
The turning of heads, or the useless effect of stopping traffic, was like
confronting his peers as a set of exposures. People froze and anticipated,
as if the sight of his presence was religious in nature. It was scary. Really
a fright. He was better than Christ, he was physically perfect.
He came to refer to his condition as surface, and his surface was a sign
of an emotion that the literal could be as true, perhaps truer than the
symbol. I mean the man could breathe and unless he died and came to be known only through a photograph, then one would have to concede that the tables had turned.
His literalness was what was real. This is what he wore on his hands.
He was a carrier, maybe the only one, an ever present reminder that proportion
and line and beauty did not necessarily exist only in an impression or form or
idea. This was what all the blood was about, and this revelation and the
seriousness of it, weighed an amazing ton.
The first time he saw her, he saw her in a photograph. He had seen her
before, at her job, but there, she didn't come across or measure up anywhere
near as well as she did in her picture. Behind her desk she was too real to
look at, and what she did in daily life could never guarantee the effect of what
usually came to be received from an objective resemblance. He had to have her
on paper, a material with a flat and seamless surface, a physical location
which could represent her resemblance all in one place, a place that had the
chances of looking real, but a place that didn't have any specific chances of being real.
His fantasies, and right now, the one of her, needed satisfaction. And
satisfaction, at least in part, seemed to come about by injesting, perhaps
"perceiving", the fiction her photograph imagined.
She had to be condensed and inscribed in a way that his expectations of
what he wanted her to be, (and what he wanted to be too) could at least be
possibly, even remotely, realized. Overdetermination was part of his plan and in a strange way, the same kind of psychological after-life was what he loved,
sometimes double loved about her picture.
It wasn't that he wanted to worship her. And it wasn't that he wanted to
be taxed and organized by a kind of uncritical devotion. But her image did
seem to have a concrete and actual form, an incarnate power, a power that he could willingly and easily contribute to. And what he seemed to be able to do, either in front or away from it, was pass time in a particular bodily state, an
alternating balance which turned him in and out and made him see something
about a life after death.
One of his friends said she wanted, what she did, to have a kind of mix, a
cross perhaps, between the Velvet Underground and The Beachboys.
Her attitude or reasoning was simply based on the fact that she'd paid
out her own money for all their albums and had played them for a number of
years, never seeming to tire of the same songs no matter how many times she had heard them.
She had never qualified the two groups and never tried to figure out why
she received pretty much of the same kind of satisfaction from what could have
been easily described as sounds and images from two different worlds.
Again she just thought the worlds were interesting and there was, she
felt, no reason she couldn't be a citizen of both.
This of course is not to say she wasn't aware of the blackness, the
leather, the shininess of the Underground, or the sunshine, surf, and sand,
associated with the Beachboys. But she knew too that these things were descriptions, ways of fabricating a sense (surrounding the attraction), a way to put your finger on them and make whatever they were supposed to be, easier to swallow, a lot of "things" that were hardly thought about in the middle of a crowd, late at night, with eyes shut tight, jerking about in a room in a building, way down at the end of the city, where there was no such thing as the one and only, the honest to goodness, or the genuine article.
For the past couple of weeks, one of the first things he begins to think
about after getting out of bed, is getting back in. He gets up, turns on the
radio, looks out the window, (up to the sky) puts some water on his face, and
takes a deep breath into the mirror.
This part too gets turned around and even though he never likes what he
sees, he still tries to convince himself that what's in the mirror is just a
reflection, something that can be managed by staring back, staring and releasing what he knows to be true.
"It's better than fighting the impossible", he says, "and what I know, I
just admit to."
This "arrangement" even though it's slowly, steadily putting him into a
deep, hollow-like sleep, the sleep he knows won't be legendary.
"One of these days I'm going to wake up a dumb blonde. Believe me, I'm
working on it. I'm thinking things like what if I take the phone off the hook,
how long would it be before someone broke down my door to see if this is
where I was."
He has begun to think that this idea about keeping to his bed is
suggesting something finally meaningful. It isn't just an idea anymore. It has come to represent a way back into a parochial structure, almost taking something like an untitled holiday. And it's funny too, because he knows this structure has always been belittled by people who he had hoped to charge pedestrian affairs with a kind of cosmopolitan insurgence.
"Emigrants with a mission", he calls them. "Maybe it's a bit easier for
me. I was born in the Canal Zone, I mean the place isn't even there anymore.
So it's not like I'm breaking out of a history or off of a background.
Luckily for me, the darkened room, the small black and white tv, the phone, the down comforter, it's all quite an acceptable substitute for vision and drama."
"I never wanted to leave my room in the first place and I see no reason
why this particular desire to be grounded, be looked upon as an unfortunate
style. I like to stay home. I've never felt an urgency to assimilate. And
anyway, isn't this the kind of arrangement most people want after they've taken
over a little piece of the world?"
The Velvet Well
Magazines, movies, t.v., and records. It wasn't everybody's condition
but to him it sometimes seemed like it was, and if it really wasn't, that was
alright, but it was going to be hard for him to connect with someone who passed themselves off as an example or a version of a life put together from
He had already accepted all these conditions and built out of their
givens, and to him what was given was anything public and what was public was always real. He transported these givens to a reality more real than the condition he first accepted. He was never too clever, too assertive, too intellectual, especially too decorative. He had a spirit that made it easier to receive than to censor.
His own desires had very little to do with what came from himself because
what he putout, (at least in part) had already been out. His way to make it
new was make it again, and making it again was enough for him and certainly,
personally speaking, almost him.